A COUNCIL pushing forward an ambition to create a 21st century transport hub to radically improve connections to the Tees Valley has pledged to not “steamroller people out of their homes” to achieve the major transformation.

Darlington Borough Council’s economy portfolio holder Councillor Alan Marshall said the council was attempting to buy property in the area surrounding Bank Top station ahead of a £100m-plus revamp by agreement, before using Compulsory Purchase Order powers.

The authority says it needs to buy land to create a multi-storey car-park, transport interchanges, better drop-off and pick-up facilities and improved pedestrian and cycling facilities benefitting from links to Central Park and the town centre.

Dozens of properties and parcels of land, particularly on the Neasham Road side of the station, need to be bought in just over a year for the project to remain on schedule for completion before 2025 and the 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

Ahead of a cabinet meeting where the use of the orders looks set to be approved, Cllr Marshall said the council had opened talks with the property owners at an early stage and to make a Compulsory Purchase Oder the council would need to demonstrate it would bring wide public benefits, and there was a “compelling case”.

Officers have concluded that “specific human rights are affected but that the interference with these rights is permissible in this case”.

Cllr Marshall said the authority was offering residents and businesses of land in the area support and guidance throughout the process and a number of the residents and businesses affected had already reached agreements with the authority.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The areas surrounding Bank Top station where Darlington council plans to buy properties and land

The areas surrounding Bank Top station where Darlington council plans to buy properties and land

He said: “This project will bring real benefits to Darlington in general, but we have to be sympathetic and empathetic to the residents involved. It is an upsetting process for residents, particularly for those who have been there a long time, but people have known this is coming for some time and do recognise the benefits that this scheme will bring to that area.

“It’s not going to be a steamroller. We’re not going to take their homes away.

“I know the area as it’s where I was brought up and it has been run-down for a number of years and this project will regenerate it.”